Divided Years (E8 7a) ground-up

23 June, 2015
James McHaffie on the crux section of Divided Years (E8 7a). © Ray Wood
James McHaffie (aka Caff) and Ryan Pasquill have repeated Divided Years (E8 7a) ground-up. The route in the Mountains of Mourne, Northern Ireland, takes a direct line up the bow-shaped prow on the main face of the Buzzard's Roost, perched high on the NE shoulder of Slieve Binnian.

Divided Years has had a handful of ascents but this is the first done ground-up. Established by John Dunne in 1995 the route is one of the UK's most striking and famous hard trad routes.

On Caff's second attempt on the first day he nearly got through the hard climbing, falling off the last move, not helped by some anti-beta from Ricky Bell who was filming nearby from a rope. His memory of the route had clearly faded since he'd made the fourth ascent but it all made for good banter.

Leaving the gear in place and returning to the crag after a rest day Caff 'fired' the route first go. Ryan who'd had a five week lay-off from climbing with cracked ribs until a couple of days ago, tied-in on the sharp end immediately afterwards, and his tremendous display of determination also met with success.

Pasquill on Divided Years
Caff said: "Without doubt it's one of the best single pitch routes, sport or trad, that I've ever done. It's physically around 8a+, safe and straight-forward to get the gear in. The rock is immaculate. The climbing was a lot better than I expected with a lot of cool and varied moves. A great route with a great name."

James led it again afterwards "for training and to get the kit out". He added: "If it was E9 I probably wouldn't have done that."

Ryan said: "My hands were uncurling off the flat ledge at the end of the hard climbing. I knew I didn't have it in me to climb that section again so really had to fight to stay-on. It was great fun though."

As the mystique around a route fades with subsequent ascents this undoubtedly makes a difference to the approach taken. Dave MacLeod, who made the third ascent, placing the gear after top roping it in 2006, commented on his blog afterwards: "If I had been sure the route was only 8a and so safe I would have tried it ground up, but I was still looking at a potential E10 [Ed. Dunne's original grade] and 8b/+ which I could never onsight."

In the era of video footage of routes being so readily available online a true onsight would be very difficult but the route is very flashable commented Caff: "If it was chalked and you'd watched the vids of Divided a flash would definitely be on the cards."

Ricky Bell also got in on the action, at what must have been one of the busiest climbing day's ever at the Roost, with a new route directly up the headwall between The Spirit Level and War Music. As McHaffie and Pasquill left the crag, the next contender for Divided Years, Ollie Grounsell, was getting his gear together.

McHaffie and Pasquill after their success on Divided Years. © Ray Wood